Ukrainian forces withdraw from key city
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Fall of Lysychansk takes Russia closer to goal of taking over Donbas
From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Yulia Kesaieva, Hannah Ritchie, Mariya Knight, Radina Gigova and Jonny Hallam
Luhansk is one of the two regions that form Donbas, the eastern part of Ukraine where a conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists started in 2014.
The area has became the centerpiece of Russian President Vladimir Putin's military ambition in Ukraine after his troops failed to take over Kyiv earlier this year.
The fall of Lysychansk takes Russia closer to achieving its goal of taking over Donbas.
"After heavy fighting for Lysychansk, the Defense Forces of Ukraine were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Sunday on Twitter.
Pro-Russia separatists in the area had already claimed a victory in the battle over Lysychansk. Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, declared the Luhansk region "liberated."
Only Russia and Syria recognize the Luhansk People's Republic as independent. Ukraine and its western allies consider it part of Ukrainian territory, currently under Russian occupation.
Video shared by Russian state news outlet Ria Novosti on Saturday purports to show residents installing the old Soviet Union flag at the Memorial to the Fallen in Lysychansk.
Fate of Luhansk: The Institute for the Study of War said Russia will likely establish control over the rest of the Luhansk region in the coming days. After that, the institute said in its latest update, Russian troops will likely focus on Ukrainian positions in Siversk, west of Lysychansk, before turning inland to Sloviansk and Bakhmut.
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It's 8 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
Russia has taken control of Lysychansk, the last city in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine that was still under Ukrainian control. Ukraine's military announced on Sunday that it had been "forced to withdraw" from the critical city.
- Lysychansk in Russian control: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that the military had taken over Lysychansk and a number of nearby settlements on Sunday, according to the country's Ministry of Defense. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the city, saying the retreat was meant to save the lives of troops facing an onslaught of thousands of Russian artillery shells. Zelensky vowed Ukraine's armed forces would retake Lysychansk and Donbas.
- Sloviansk hit by heavy shelling: At least six people were killed and 15 injured during shelling on the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk on Sunday, according to local authorities. The city's mayor said Sloviansk was experiencing its heaviest shelling in recent days. The nearby city of Kramatorsk was also hit with three missile strikes on Sunday morning but there were no casualties, according to Ukraine's Donetsk regional military administration.
- Russia accuses Ukraine of striking Belgorod: The Ukrainian military launched "a deliberate strike" with Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster munitions and drones on residential areas of the Russian cities of Belgorod and Kursk, the Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson claimed on Sunday. Earlier, the local governor said at least three people were killed and dozens of residential buildings were damaged by explosions in the Belgorod region. The Ukrainian military has not yet commented on the strikes.
- Australia announces aid package: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited the Kyiv region on Sunday, traveling to Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, before meeting President Zelensky. He announced a $100 million aid package to Ukraine, which includes military equipment and security assistance. Australia will also prohibit imports of Russian gold and impose targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on 16 additional Russian ministers and oligarchs.
- Belarus accuses Ukraine of missile attack: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has accused Ukraine of firing missiles at military facilities on his country’s territory. He said the missiles were intercepted by Belarusian air defense systems earlier this week. Without providing any evidence of the alleged attack, Lukashenko – a close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin – called the act a “provocation." The Ukrainian military did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment on Lukashenko’s claims.
Australia to send $100 million aid package to Ukraine as Anthony Albanese meets Zelensky
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited the Kyiv region on Sunday, travelling to Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, before meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kyiv Governor Olexiy Kuleba said on his official Telegram channel.
Kuleba said Albanese expressed Australia's solidarity with Ukraine and the crimes committed in the Kyiv region.
According to Kuleba, Albanese was “stunned by what he saw: ruined civilian buildings, traces of mines, the ruined Antonov Airport.”
Albanese then announced a new assistance package to Ukraine, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's office.
The package includes:
- A$99.5 million (US $67 million) in military assistance, including 14 armored personnel carriers, 20 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles and other military equipment.
- A$8.7 million (US$6 million) to upgrade border management equipment, improve cyber security and enhance border operations in the field.
- Australia will also prohibit imports of Russian gold, joining countries who've made similar pledges, including Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and United States.
- Australia will impose targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on 16 additional Russian ministers and oligarchs.
“Russia’s brutal invasion is a gross violation of international law. I saw first-hand the devastation and trauma it has inflicted on the people of Ukraine," Albanese said, according to the statement.
“My visit to Kyiv and recent visits by other world leaders sends a clear message that democratic nations like Australia will stand side-by-side with the Ukrainian people in their time of need.”
Zelensky acknowledges Ukraine's retreat from Lysychansk, vows army will return
From CNN's Mariya Knight and Jonny Hallam
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the city of Lysychansk, in Donbas on Sunday.
In his nightly televised address to the nation, Zelensky said the retreat from Lysychansk was meant to save the lives of Ukrainian troops facing an onslaught of thousands of Russian artillery shells.
“The fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, our people, plays an equally important role. We will rebuild the walls, we will win back the land, and people must be protected above all else,” Zelensky said.
"If the command of our army withdraws people from certain points of the frontline, where the enemy has the greatest military firepower advantage, in particular, this also applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing."
Zelensky vowed Ukraine's armed forces would retake Lysychansk and Donbas when they receive new modern weapons.
We will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons,” Zelensky said.
Ukrainian military "forced to withdraw" from Lysychansk: Ukrainian Armed Forces
From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and Radina Gigova
The Ukrainian military has been "forced to withdraw" from the city of Lysychansk, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Sunday on its official social media platforms.
"After heavy fighting for Lysychansk, the Defense Forces of Ukraine were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines," the general staff said in a Twitter post, alongside a photo that read: "Lysychansk: We'll be back."
The general staff said the decision to withdraw was made in "order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders."
"In the conditions of the multiple superiority of the Russian occupying forces in artillery, aviation, MLRS, ammunition and personnel, the continuation of the defense of the city would lead to fatal consequences," it said in another Facebook post.
The armed forces said it will "continue the fight."
"Unfortunately, steel will and patriotism are not enough for success — material and technical resources are needed," the post read.
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At least 6 dead in Sloviansk shelling, Ukrainian authorities say
From CNN's Julia Presniakova in Lviv and Oleksandra Ochman in Kyiv
At least six people were killed and 15 injured during shelling of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk on Sunday, according to Tetiana Tiurina, the head of the Public Information and Communication Department of Donetsk region.
In a video message posted to Facebook on Sunday, Sloviansk Mayor Vadym Liakh said "many" people had been killed and wounded due to shelling in the city.
The mayor said the city was experiencing its heaviest shelling in recent days and up to 15 fires are blazing around Sloviansk.
The nearby city of Kramatorsk was also hit with three missile strikes on Sunday morning but there were no casualties, according to Ukraine's Donetsk regional military administration.
A residential complex and part of a road in a residential area were damaged, the regional military administration said.
"For the second day, the occupiers are hitting Kramatorsk with SMERCH anti-aircraft missiles. They destroy civilian infrastructure and target the civilian population," Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko claimed while posting photos of the damage.
CNN has been unable to independently verify those claims.
Russia's Ministry of Defense claims Ukraine targeted Russian cities with cluster munitions
From CNN's Zahra Ulla and Darya Tarasova
The Ukrainian military launched "a deliberate strike" with Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster munitions and drones on residential areas of the Russian cities of Belgorod and Kursk, a Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson claimed Sunday.
"Tonight, from 3:00 to 3:30 Moscow time, the Kyiv regime launched a deliberate strike with Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster munitions and Tu-143 Reys drones on residential areas of Belgorod and Kursk, where there are not any military installations," Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said.
"I want to emphasize that this missile attack was purposefully planned and carried out against the civilian population of Russian cities."
Konashenkov claimed the three Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster warheads launched by "Ukrainian nationalists" at Belgorod were destroyed by Russian air defense systems in the air.
The wreckage of one of the missiles fell on a residential building in the city, he claimed.
Konashenkov also claimed Russian air defense systems destroyed two Ukrainian military drones as they approached the city of Kursk, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Belgorod.
CNN has been unable to independently confirm those claims.
The Ukrainian military has not yet commented on the strikes.
Earlier: The local governor of Russia’s Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov said at least three people were killed and dozens of residential buildings were damaged in Belgorod after it was hit by explosions early Sunday morning.
At least four more were injured, including a man currently in critical condition and a 10-year old child, according to Gladkov. Five houses were fully destroyed in the blasts, while 11 apartment buildings and 34 private residential houses were also damaged, Gladkov said.
Ukraine destroys Russian military base in occupied Melitopol, says exiled mayor
From CNN’s Wayne Chang
Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian military base in Russian-occupied Melitopol early Sunday morning, the city’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said in a video address.
According to Fedorov, between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday local time, “more than 30 shots were fired exclusively at the military base,” rendering it “unable to function.”
“Now the whole city is covered in smoke. This has been going on for three to four hours. Warehouses on the territory of the transport aviation base are burning,” Fedorov said.
The head of the Russia-installed council in the Zaporizhzhia region, Evgeny Balitsky, said that "shells fell on the territory on the airfield" and that "there were no casualties," in a Telegram post Sunday.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti also confirmed the attack, reporting that Ukraine had hit the Aviagorodok area of Melitopol, but did not specify what had been targeted.
Volodymyr Rogov, a local Moscow-installed official in the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia region, said on Telegram that between 16 to 18 Ukrainian MLRS rockets had hit Melitopol in two strikes.
Melitopol fell to Russian control in early March, weeks into the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.